Maverick City Councilman Sal Albanese surprised the experts again last night with a strong third-place finish in the Democratic mayoral primary.
The 47-year-old Brooklyn lawmaker had 21% of the vote with 99% of ballots counted — a good showing by a candidate who was met with responses of “Sal who?” when he announced his candidacy in March 1996.
“We came up short in . . . a tremendous battle for the soul of New York,” Albanese said in his concession speech at the New York Hilton last night, as his supporters chanted, “Sal! Sal! Sal!”
He said he hadn’t decided whom to support in the run-off. “I’m a Democrat, I’m a strong Democrat, but tonight I’m not going to make any decision,” said Albanese (pictured, with his daughter), who left the door open to a potential run as an independent candidate in November’s general election.
Albanese, who ran his grass-roots, citywide campaign on a shoestring budget of less than $900,000, blamed money woes for not being able to take out TV advertisements until the race’s final days.
“We ran hard and we ran against all the odds. But we never gave up,” said Albanese, who made labor and wage issues the centerpiece of his campaign.
“It’s clear that we began to connect with the voters,” he said. “We just could not reach enough people. We shook a lot of hands. But you have 8 million people in this city, you have 2 1/2 million registered voters. You have to get on the air.”
Still, for Albanese, the third-place showing marked a high point in his quirky political career.
It wasn’t the first time that the Italian immigrant and former public school teacher has surprised naysayers.
“Sal has always fooled the experts,” said his campaign manager, Don Crouch.
A graduate of John Jay High School in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and York College in Queens, Albanese launched his political career in 1982 by ousting Brooklyn City Councilman Angelo Arculeo, a 29-year incumbent.
He quickly made his mark as a maverick who often defied Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Queens) and his conservative Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst constituents by backing liberal causes such as gay and abortion rights.
On the campaign trail, he hammered Mayor Giuliani for doling out tax breaks to big corporations that pay low wages to nonunion laborers.
His mayoral platform called for cutting taxes for small business. But he also pushed to raise income taxes for families earning more than $150,000 and for suburban residents who work in the city.
He wrote and worked with fellow council members long enough to pass a popular piece of legislation requiring city contractors to pay prevailing union wages.
Original Story Date: 091097